John Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair

John Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair

John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, KT, GCMG, GCVO, PC (3 August 1847–7 March 1934), styled the Hon. John Hamilton-Gordon until 1870 and the Earl of Aberdeen from 1870 to 1916, was a Scottish Liberal politician and colonial governor. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1886 and from 1905 to 1915 and Governor General of Canada from 1893 to 1898.


Hamilton-Gordon was born in 1847 in Edinburgh, the third son of the George Hamilton-Gordon, 5th Earl of Aberdeen, eldest surviving son of Prime Minister George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen. His mother was Mary, daughter of George Baillie and sister of Thomas Hamilton, 7th Earl of Haddington, and Lord Jerviswoode. He was educated at the University of St Andrews and University College, Oxford.

Early political career

Aberdeen succeeded in the earldom on his eldest brother's death in 1870, assuming his seat in the House of Lords, where he was a close friend and supporter of the Prime Minister, William Gladstone. He gained experience in overseas administration when he served as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in Gladstone's brief 1886 administration. The latter year he was also sworn of the Privy Council. Lord Aberdeen became Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire in 1880, a post he held until 1934, and was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1881 to 1885 and in 1915. In 1881 Lord Aberdeen and his family took up residence in Dollis Hill House in London, where they often entertained William Gladstone.

Governor General of Canada

Even before Lord Aberdeen became Governor General in 1893, he and his wife Lady Aberdeen, whom he had married in 1877, had fallen in love with Canada. They had taken a world tour in 1890, which included an extensive visit to Canada. The Aberdeens were so impressed with this country that they purchased Coldstream Ranch, located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, in 1891. They named the ranch "Guisachan", after Lady Aberdeen's father's estate in Scotland, and the house stands to this day.

Lord Aberdeen was Governor General during a period of political transition, throughout the terms of four Prime Ministers – Sir John Thompson, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, Sir Charles Tupper and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It was also an era of controversy marred by competing issues, from the abolition of separate French schools in Manitoba – which created a unity crisis (the Manitoba Schools Question) – to the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the discovery of gold in the Yukon Territory. Lord Aberdeen was well equipped to take on the challenges of the position, with the experience and knowledge from his previous travels in Canada, and family history of success in this country – his father was instrumental in boundary negotiations between the United States and Canada.

When Laurier had won a clear majority in the 1896 election, Tupper initially refused to cede power, insisting that Laurier would be unable to form a government. However, when Tupper attempted to make appointments as prime minister, Aberdeen intervened, dismissing Tupper and inviting Laurier to form a government. Tupper maintained that Lord Aberdeen's actions were unconstitutional; history has supported Aberdeen's actions.

Above all, Lord Aberdeen believed that, as Governor General, he could improve the well being of Canadians generally, and he and Lady Aberdeen again travelled extensively throughout the country in an attempt to meet and talk with Canadians from all walks of life. This included a journey to the Maritimes where he met, among others, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, as well as many inhabitants of Cape Breton Island who spoke Gaelic and were themselves from the highlands of Scotland. He also travelled west to meet with many people, including many First Nations peoples, and was made an honorary chief of both the Six Nations and Blackfoot people.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen were enthusiastic supporters of outdoor sport in Canada, and personally participated in curling, hockey and sleighing at Rideau Hall. Lord Aberdeen donated the gold Aberdeen Cup for championship golf in the Canadian Amateur Championship, which began in Ottawa in 1895, organized by the Royal Canadian Golf Association, for which he arranged royal designation. They also contributed to the social and cultural life of the capital by hosting a variety of balls and official dinners, and the Aberdeen family often participated in theatrical performances in the ballroom at Rideau Hall. In 1893, Lord and Lady Aberdeen had a chapel built at Rideau Hall, which was removed in 1912. Ottawa's Aberdeen Pavilion, built in 1898, was named in his honour and he presided over its opening.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen participated in the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and the commemoration of various anniversaries and celebrations throughout Canada. Lord Aberdeen was also involved in the Canadian military. He conducted fleet inspections of the Canadian Navy on three different occasions and became Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Governor General's Foot Guards in 1898.

While her husband was in office, Lady Aberdeen made lasting contributions to Canadian society. She was the first president of the International Council of Women and encouraged the creation of the May Court Club. Her most significant achievement was establishing the Victorian Order of Nurses in 1897. This organization, dedicated to the care of ill people in their own homes, was at first mistrusted by the medical establishment, but Lady Aberdeen won its acceptance. Today, the VON continues to be a vital part of the Canadian health care system.

Lord Aberdeen's legacy was a reformed role in how the office of Governor General dealt with Canadian society. He and his wife had sought to show interest in the welfare of less privileged Canadians. By meeting Canadians in all regions of Canada and discussing their concerns, Lord Aberdeen transformed the role of Governor General from that of the aristocrat representing the King or Queen in Canada to a symbol representing the interests of all citizens. He had also sought to strengthen communication and trade links with the overseas Dominions, seeing the future benefits of openness between countries.

Later political career

After his term as Governor General of Canada, Lord Aberdeen returned to the United Kingdom. He served again as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1905 to 1915 in the Liberal administrations of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith. Apart from his political career he was also President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club in 1901 and of the Highland and Agricultural Society from 1901 to 1902 and Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews between 1913 and 1916. On January 4 1916, he was created Earl of Haddo and Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.


Lord Aberdeen and Temair married Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks, daughter of Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, at St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London, on November 7 1877. They had five children:

*Sir George Gordon, 2nd Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair (20 January 1879–6 January 1965)
*Lady Marjorie Adeline Gordon (7 December 1880–26 July 1970), married John Sinclair, 1st Baron Pentland.
*Lady Dorothea Mary Gordon (12 March 1882–25 November 1882)
*Dudley Gladstone Gordon, 3rd Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair (6 May 1883–16 April 1972)
*Lord Archibald Ian Gordon (3 October 1884–16 December 1909)


Lord Aberdeen helped raise Stella Ridley, daughter of Matthew Ridley, 1st Viscount Ridley. She later married Rupert Gwynne, Conservative MP for Eastbourne from 1929 to 1931. Gwynne's brother, Roland Gwynne, was the lover of suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams [Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9] .

It was widely believed that Lord Loam in JM Barrie's play THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON is a satirical depiction of Lord Aberdeen (the Aberdeens organised social clubs for their servants and were rumoured to dine in the servants' hall from time to time). The Aberdeens' jointly-authored memoir WE TWA reprints a letter from Barrie denying this.

Aberdeen Avenue, a street in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, was named after Lord Aberdeen (John Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair) and Lady Aberdeen (Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair) who both lived in Hamilton on Bay Street South (1890-1898) with their four children. They also presided over the opening of the "Hamilton Public Library" on September 16, 1890. cite book|title=Hamilton Street Names: An Illustrated Guide|first=Margaret |last=Houghton|publisher=James Lorimer & Co. Ltd.|year=2002|id= ISBN 1-55028-773-7]

In Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Aberdeen Avenue is a historically designated street in Cabbagetown (formerly Carlton Avenue and Lamb Street) named for Lord Aberdeen, Governor General of Canada 1893-1898, and Lady Aberdeen, an aristocrat-democrat with a strong socialconscience who made lasting contributions to Canadian society in founding the Victorian Order of Nurses and the National Council of Women.

Aberdeen Street in Kingston, Ontario is named in honour of the couple; it is located near the Queen's University campus.

In her vice-regal duties at Ottawa's Government House, invitations were eagerly sought to state dinners where she became famous for her tableaux, dramatizing incidents in Canadian history, conscripting household staff, guests and family members to play roles. She and Lord Aberdeen, in honour of the Queen's Jubilee in 1897, spent $4,000 of their own money to stage a huge pageant in Toronto celebrating Canada's progress in industry, arts, sciences and sports. (Apparently these expenses consistently exceeded Lord Aberdeen's £10,000 yearly salary, alarming the Edinburgh lawyers who managed their finances.)

In her boundless enthusiasm to improve the lot of working women, Lady Aberdeen created the Onward and Upward Association to help develop, socialize, and educate her staff, as well as encourage prostitutes to relinquish the street.

To honour the outstanding public contributions to the women of her time, an offshoot of women from the Aberdeen Avenue Residents' Group (AARG) has resurrected the "Onward and Upward" model in creating a modern-day salon as a forum for discussion of issues critical to modern day women.

Lady Aberdeen is also credited with introducing the Golden Retriever to Canada. Her father, Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth is best known as the originator of the breed. By coincidence, the Golden Retriever is the predominant resident breed of Toronto's Aberdeen Avenue.


* []
*Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). "Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage" (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.
* []



Lord Aberdeen was invested as a:
*Privy Counsellor (PC) on 6 February, 1886.
*Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1895.
*Knight of the Order of the Thistle (KT) in 1906.
*Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 1911.


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